Invest Financial Planning

HerMoney Podcast Episode 272: How The Best Investors Do It 

Kathryn Tuggle  |  June 30, 2021

What makes a great investor truly great, and how we can all become richer, wiser, and happier.

 

We know that most of HerMoney’s listeners are investors. Even if you just have a tiny bit of money put aside in an IRA or a 401(k), you’re an investor, and the whole HerMoney team is so proud of you for taking those steps to set your future self up for success and comfort! Some of you are extremely serious about investing — playing the markets is not only a passion for you, it’s a big — and important — part of your life. When you invest regularly and pick your own stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, and so much more, you gain a real understanding of where the markets are headed, how the overall economy is doing, and what your financial future is going to look like. But all investors — no matter how much you have invested — want to know the same thing: How can I be the most successful investor possible? What makes a “great” investor, and how can I get there? 

When it comes to our money, we all want to know the “right” or “best” moves to make… The trick, though, is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for finding investing success. The most successful investors among us have all taken a different path to building their wealth. This week, we’re so lucky to get a window into what the world’s greatest investors are really doing and thinking, with author and journalist William Green. William’s new book is: Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life. In it, William has 25 years worth of interviews with many of the world’s super-investors, and he dives into where their genius really comes from, and what they can teach us. In this episode we’re also joined by one of those “most successful investors” who William profiles in the book — Laura Geritz, CEO and Founder of Rondure Global Advisors, a woman-owned investment firm that focuses on high quality equity investing with a long-term view.  

In William’s book, he writes that the most successful investors “are mavericks and iconoclasts who question conventional wisdom.” He tells us what he means by that, and Laura weighs in on her experience finding success in the industry, both getting into the industry and thriving in it. (Hint: She was a liberal arts major, who studied history and political science — not a business or finance major!) Laura discusses how she broke into the investment business as a young woman from rural Kansas, and what she did to set herself apart in a notoriously male-dominated industry. 

The pair also dive into ESG — investing “for good” — and the craziness we’ve been seeing in the markets the last couple of years now, with NFTs and crypto and all the “new.” We talk about how to know what new things will become REAL things, and when it’s appropriate to dip into different asset classes.  We also discuss passive vs active investing, and whether there are characteristics that all of the most successful investors have in common. 

Laura also addresses how women are generally more risk-averse when it comes to investing, and how we can turn the tide on that while still avoiding costly errors, building resilience, and turning uncertainty to our advantage. We also discuss the pair’s best advice for riding out market downturns, and recovering from unexpected defeats and losses at work and in life. 

In Mailbag, we tackle a question from a listener who is curious about taxable vs. non-taxable accounts in retirement and whether to convert an IRA. We also hear from a woman who has questions about her mother-in-law’s financial power of attorney and wants to get a handle on the family’s future financial needs. And in Thrive, Jean breaks down the skills you learned in your entry-level job that need to go on your resume, ASAP. 

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SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE: Life is the topic. Money is the tool. Let’s talk! Subscribe to HerMoney today.

Author’s Note: Investing involves risk. Investing in stocks can be volatile and involves risk, including loss of principal. Consider your individual circumstances prior to investing. Diversification strategies do not ensure a profit and do not protect against losses in declining markets.

This podcast is proudly supported by Fidelity Investments. Life is full of big moments—both the planned and the unexpected. Fidelity can help you navigate both with confidence. Learn more at Fidelity.com/HerMoney. Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC Member NYSE, SIPC.

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

Transcript

William Green: (00:01)
When you look at the great investors, they’re very free thinking. They’re very independent. They’re questioning conventional opinion the whole time. And they’re saying, no, let me look at the evidence in a much more dispassionate unemotional way so that I can see what actually is going on here. How risk is priced. For example, at the moment, are there great opportunities or is the market generally pretty euphoric and people are taking too much risk. And I want to be a little bit more careful.

Jean Chatzky: (00:28)
HerMoney is supported by Fidelity Investments. You work too hard for your money to let it sit on the sidelines. Fidelity can show you how to demand more from your money every day. Visit fidelity.com/HerMoney to learn more. Hey everyone, I’m Jean Chatzky. Thank you so much for being with us today for HerMoney. I know because you’ve told me that most of you listening today, maybe even all of you, although I am going to go with most are investors. And by the way, even if you have just a tiny bit of money in an IRA or a 401k or with a robo-advisor, you are an investor. And that’s amazing because that means that you have taken those steps to set your future self up for success and for comfort. But I know that you also have a lot of questions about investing, playing the markets may be a passion for some of you, but for all of you who are focused on making sure that you can live the retirement that you want, that you can put your kids through college.

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Jean Chatzky: (01:39)
It is a big, important part of life. And I think many of us have much the same question we want to know, how can we be the most successful investors possible? What makes a great investor and how can I get there when it comes to our money, we all want to know what the best moves are, what the right moves are. The trick is that there isn’t a one size fits all method for finding, investing success. The most successful investors among us have taken very different paths to building their wealth. But today we are going to get a window into what the world’s greatest investors are really doing and really thinking with author and journalist William Green, William has a new book. It just came out. It’s called “Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life”. And we’re going to get into that life part as well.

Jean Chatzky: (02:41)
William has 25 years worth of interviews with many of the world’s super investors. And he dives into where their genius really comes from and what they can teach us. And we are so fortunate to, to be joined by one of those most successful investors, who William profiles in the book. Laura Geritz is CEO and founder of Rondure Global Advisors. A woman-owned investment firm that focuses on high quality equity investing with a long-term view, Laura and William. Welcome. So William, let me start with you. In your book, you say that the most successful investors are Mavericks and iconoclasts who question conventional wisdom. You also say they are master game players. Can you tell us what you mean by that?

William Green: (03:37)
Yeah. They’re an extraordinary group of freethinkers. They’re really avoiding just following the herd. If you think about the way that most people invest, they get carried away by fads. When the market’s going up, they pile into it because they want to invest in what everyone else is investing in. And then when the market’s plunging, they tend to panic. And when you look at the great investors, they’re very free thinking. They’re very independent, they’re questioning conventional opinion the whole time. And they’re saying, no, let me look at the evidence in a much more dispassionate unemotional way so that I can see what actually is going on here. How risk is priced, for example, at the moment, are there great opportunities or is the market generally pretty euphoric and people are taking too much risk and I want to be a little bit more careful. And so I think if there’s a takeaway for the regular investor, it’s the very first thing is just to be aware of this kind of crowd behavior of behaving like lemmings, who just pile into everything and then fall off the cliff. And Laura is a great example of this. Laura is someone who just totally and artfully marches to the beat of her own drum and is going to countries that, uh, everyone else hates and looking for the best companies in the least popular countries. And so in some ways she really embodies this spirit of questioning Orthodox behavior and thinking very freely for herself.

Jean Chatzky: (04:52)
Laura have you always been that way. Or is that something that you had to learn?

Laura Geritz: (04:57)
You know, I was an only child, so I think that has something to do. I never knew what appropriate behavior was because I didn’t have siblings like, you know, pointing out, you know, all the things I was doing wrong. So yeah, I didn’t have siblings until much, much later in life. And so I was always an independent thinker and reader and I, you know, I loved playing games when I was a kid thinking about the odds and I loved math. I had parents, a father who was an English professor and a mother who was a scientist, neither one of them had the best math skills. So, you know, I actually used odds in my favor of earning a higher allowance. When I was a kid, my dad said, okay, you can have $5 a week, a guaranteed $5 a week in allowance, or you can take all my spare change at the end of the week.

Laura Geritz: (05:45)
I’ll put my spare change in the jar and you know, each day and you can take it. And I knew my father’s habits. So I said, I’ll take the spare change. I ended up earning the nickname money bags in high school because I had the highest allowance with any kid, but I always had this change jingling in my pocket. So, you know, my parents taught me, didn’t teach me about the financial services industry, but they taught me so many other things that are important in this industry. You know, free thinking this industry’s multidisciplinary, which Williams’ book certainly points out that topic time and time again. So.

Jean Chatzky: (06:19)
I think it’s so interesting that we’re starting with this concept of free-thinking. I checked my email, which I do about a hundred times a day before I started recording this podcast. And I got a press release from the folks at Morningstar talking about how many young people now want crypto in their retirement accounts. And of course they do, right? Because it’s all people are talking about right now. William, from your conversations with these more than 40 super investors, how do they get themselves to look the other way to take the chance to go for as, as Laura said the change rather than the sure thing.

William Green: (07:00)
Yeah, it’s funny you mentioned crypto. I was having dinner with my kids the other day and I have a 20 year old daughter and she said, dad, shouldn’t you be investing in in Bitcoin? And it was extraordinary. And then I had tea the other day with a friend who was a very successful realtor. And she was saying, yeah, I’m investing in covered calls. And I’m like, whoa, wait, you’re trading in stock options yet you, you know nothing about the stock market. You’re a brilliant investor. And in real estate and here you’re getting sucked into speculating. And it really struck me those two things. I was thinking, God, the appetite for speculation at the moment really reminded me of the late 1990s when I was starting out as a financial writer. And just suddenly everyone is like, yay. I must do Bitcoin. I must do options trading.

William Green: (07:43)
And I think part of why the great investors are so successful is that they’re somehow immune to this kind of crowd pressure. So while other people are getting sucked in to chasing after fads, I think there are certain types of people who actually are just wired differently. They don’t need to be part of the crowd. And that there’s a very interesting Canadian investor who I interviewed a guy called Francois Rashaan, who said to me that certain people actually lack what he calls the tribal gene. And so he said, most people, particularly in times of real stress, we tend to seek comfort in the herd. If you’re being chased by a lion and you’re a gazelle, you think, yeah, I’ll just quietly tuck myself in the woods so that I don’t stand out. And he said, then there are these people who actually just don’t think that way.

William Green: (08:27)
They’re just very independent minded. And so I think one of the key things is just to ask yourself, well, how am I wired? Am I someone who wants to follow the herd? When things are getting euphoric in the market, do I tend to follow suit? And when things are falling apart, do I tend to panic? And I think if you are someone like that, that’s absolutely fine. But then you want to outsource your investing to someone who has a better temperament than you. And if you really have that ability to think independently and be relatively unemotional and immune to the pressures of the crowd, then maybe you have a chance at investing well, you’re your own money and making the decisions for yourself. But I think that self-awareness is really key.

Jean Chatzky: (09:06)
Yeah. Laura, I was interested in what you said about being an only child. I spent last weekend with a ten-year-old who happens to be an only child and boy, oh boy, does he marched to his own drum. Just incredible. I’m curious about your path because a superstar investor who happens to be a woman is pretty unusual. How did you break in to the business? How did you get interested? Where did you come from?

Laura Geritz: (09:33)
Jean, I have a very non-traditional background, a lot. It’s quite similar to yours actually. You know, I started, I knew I was interested in finance, but I knew nothing about the financial industry. I also knew nothing about the wealth or the quote unquote rich-ness that the financial industry could bring. So for me, what I did was just starting to develop a passion for the job or the craft itself. It’s a craft where for the infinitely curious, it’s the greatest job on the planet. And so as I kept learning more and more about the industry through school, through eventual networks, through my father, who said, boy, you have applied this weird quirky, bilingual degree. You know, that I think will resonate in a world that’s globalizing where investing in other cultures in places and having an understanding of those people who matter will help you get a job in this industry.

Laura Geritz: (10:27)
And so I started as a bilingual client relations representative at American Century Investments with a degree in political science history and a master’s in east Asian languages and cultures. But you know, that worked and investing in what I did to get ahead was basically outwork everybody else around me. So what William says about being, you know, not being part of the tribe and I’m sure you know this well, Jean, I mean, as a woman in the industry, you’re never going to be part of that tribe as you work your way up. So you have to be really comfortable with being different and embracing that. And so I worked really hard.

Jean Chatzky: (11:02)
Yeah. I mean, that’s very clear. You were talking before we got on the air about how your investing adventures have taken you to all corners of the earth. And we definitely want to hear about that, but let’s just focus on you studied history and political science. You’re a liberal arts woman. And for all of our listeners who think maybe I would like to work in the financial services industry, maybe I would like to work on Wall Street. Maybe I would like to be a professional investor. You don’t need an MBA to start.

Laura Geritz: (11:35)
And in fact, you know, I recognized, you know, I needed some sort of education in the industry. So once I got my foot in the door in the industry, I started taking the CFA examination. You reach out to people in this industry, love, mentoring other people. So, you know, you reach out to people who can give good advice. And that’s what I would recommend doing. Find an investor who resonates with you and reach out to them. And you’ll be surprised, you know, they might

Jean Chatzky: (12:03)
Respond. William, I know that you didn’t just focus on the investing secrets of these very successful individuals. He focused on the life secrets. What were some of the most surprising things you heard? One

William Green: (12:22)
Of the biggest issues that I dealt with in the epilogue of the book is just saying, well, what does the money actually give you at the end of the day, given that I’ve interviewed some of the richest people in the world, it’s an interesting group to ask, well, okay, you hit the jackpot, but what actually makes for a happy and truly successful and truly abandoned life. And the thing that was striking, it’s not that money doesn’t matter at all. I think money does matter in certain ways. It gives you a tremendous amount of security and peace of mind to know that you can pay your bills to know that if things go wrong, if the market falls apart or you lose a job that you have a cushion that you’re going to be okay. And I, I I’ve been through that myself. I lost a job at one point during the global financial crisis and the fact that I had saved money and that I didn’t have debt and that I had a stock portfolio gave me a tremendous amount of peace of mind.

William Green: (13:11)
It meant that I could still take care of my wife and kids and that. So I don’t dismiss the importance of money, a toy. I think it’s critically important. But I think one of the things that came through very consistently was the relationships matter more and peace of mind matters more. And I interviewed Charlie Munger, who’s Warren Buffet’s partner. Who’s now 97 years old. And people like bill gates say that Charlie is the broadest thing he’s ever encountered. It’s one of the true geniuses of the investing world. But when you ask him, what can we learn from you and Warren about what it takes actually to have a happy life. He immediately started talking about relationships and he said, well, I’ve been a good partner to Warren and he’s been a marvelous partner to me. And he said, really, there’s one secret to having good relationships.

William Green: (13:58)
He said, if you want a good partner, be a good partner. And he said, likewise, if you want a good spouse deserve one. And so I thought that sort of thing, which is so simple. And so basic is actually really profound that when you look at these people who ended up with yachts and planes and art collections and the like, they’re just like us, really, the quality of their day to day life really comes down to their peace of mind, their relationships who they’re spending that time with. And that to me was very reassuring. Is it? It means I stopped fantasizing about, well, if ever I get to a point where I have a hundred million dollars, or $50 million or $10 million, that’s not going to be the thing that’s going to make me happy. And, and I should work on my relationship with my wife and kids and my friends, and try to have more peace of mind. I should meditate more, make sure I exercise, make sure I eat right. Make sure I have a little balance. So that’s been very helpful and revealing me.

Jean Chatzky: (14:52)
Does that ring true, Laura? I mean, when you think about more money buying more happiness, where do you shake out and what are the things that truly make you and the people that you work with them?

Laura Geritz: (15:04)
Well, you know, I think because I entered the industry for very different reasons. I didn’t know how much wealth you could achieve or richness you could achieve in this industry. So for me, I never entered the industry because of the concept of more, but a lot of people around me did, you know, they entered this industry because they think it’s the roots of fabulous wealth. And so when you ask them what they want, their answer is more, that has never resonated with me in any way, shape or form. And in fact, I agree with you, both that you need a certain amount of financial comfort. It brings independence. It brings the ability to make good decisions. It brings the ability to not be scared when the world, at some point, I believe there will be a cycle. Again, we haven’t seen one in a long time. We went over. When we see a cycle, it gives you that level of comfort. But I actually was raised on the premise of some people actually have too much. So, you know, to me, it’s never been about more money. There’s other things than just in life than just money, friendship, team building with your spouse.

Jean Chatzky: (16:14)
All of those things, I think, and it continues to show up whenever somebody does as a piece of research on money and happiness. These are the things that we hear again and again and again, and maybe one day we will actually believe them. Let’s talk about the markets we mentioned crypto earlier, but the markets have really been, they’ve just been on a roll. I mean, they took a break at the beginning of the pandemic, a big break, but came roaring back to the degree that I think most people who have put money into the markets in the last decade think that they are really good investors because they’ve done well. But as you have said, the cycles will eventually turn right. You watch this long enough and you know that there will be cycles. How do the best investors in the world handle the down as much as the up William?

William Green: (17:10)
Well, I think one of the things that they do for a start is they understand that they can’t predict the future. So someone like Howard Marks, who’s one of the great investors I profile who oversees something like $140 billion says I’m not trying to predict the future, but I’m trying to position myself in a way where I’m going to survive, whatever happens. And so he’s not overreaching, he’s not taking on too much debt. He’s not taking wild risks. And he says, it’s a little bit like, like driving in icy conditions. When you see that it’s a little scary that other people are taking more risk, you just drive a little more cautiously. And so some of preparing for these periods of inevitable setbacks is just being cautious before they strike. And it it’s interesting to me that Laura and her approach to investing tends to invest in companies that have a lot of cash and not much debt and they’re positioned to survive. And I think in the way that she manages her own finances, she tends to be fairly conservative. And so in a sense, the most important thing is to prepare for bad conditions before they occur. If that makes sense,

Jean Chatzky: (18:14)
Laura’s got a big smile on her face. Did he just, did he just out your more conservative nature?

Laura Geritz: (18:19)
Well, it’s funny because I was also going to point to one of my favorite investors and authors Howard Marks and a great quote from “The Most Important Thing,” which is the comment that good markets teach only bad habits. And I think that really resonates with me right now because good markets do, they only teach bad habits. And I mean, if you think about risk, risk is at its lowest. When the markets are at their lowest risk kids at its highest, when it’s just completely speculative, when you have this just, just intense speculation. And when everyone thinks nothing can go wrong. So for me, that lesson, and again, I started in the nineties to late nineties. So this environment reminds me very much of the late nineties in terms of the just sheer level of speculation and lack of sort of fundamental discipline. I say right now, you know, we’re the opposite of everything people want in this market where fundamental long-term valuation sensitive. We, we love, you know, the thoughts of Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet, Ben Graham. I still think “The Intelligent Investor” was one of the best books ever written. So, but those things are not what this market wants. This market wants story, theme, growth, momentum, quants.

Jean Chatzky: (19:37)
It does. It feels exactly like we’re. I mean, not that we’re heading for, you know, the.com implosion again, but that is what it feels like to me too. And I was covering it like William at the time, since then, there has been a huge move toward passive investing, buying the markets. And I know William that the investors in your book are more likely to be active investors, but can we talk a little bit about which sort of investing is appropriate for who should be a stock picker who should be an active investor and who should be a more passive investor?

William Green: (20:20)
Okay. Yeah. I interviewed Joe Greenblatt. Who’s one of the most successful hedge fund managers of all time, a guy who basically averaged 40% a year over 20 years, which means you turn a million dollars into $836 million. But he said to me that almost everyone should be indexing because he said, he said the most basic truth of investing. He said, you need to be able to value a business and then buy it for much less than it’s worth. And so he said, that’s the essence of stock picking, but it raises a really profoundly important, but simple question, which is, well, do you know how to value a business? So for someone like me who actually has no mathematical skills at all, no accounting knowledge, no patience to go through the financial statements of companies. I need to be self-aware enough to say this is not a game that I’m really equipped to win.

William Green: (21:09)
I shouldn’t be picking individual stocks. Now, maybe I can find some funds that are run by people who are really good, some actively managed funds that I have a little bit more chance to do, particularly because I interview a lot of them. So I can see to some degree who the better managers are, but I kind of hedge against my own fallibility and incompetence. And so for a long time, I’ve owned two index funds just because I think, well, my wife and kids shouldn’t pay for the fact that I delude myself into thinking that I can beat the market. But then because I also love this game and I think it’s a wonderful game. I also own maybe three actively managed funds run by people who I feel that not only have a very longterm value oriented, disciplined process who think for themselves in a very valuation focused, but also they’re honorable.

William Green: (21:58)
And there are people who I can see from their fee structure that they’re not exploiting their shareholders, that their interests are aligned with their shareholders. And that’s one of the reasons why I focused in the book also on Laura, because I can see, she’s not trying to take advantage of her shareholders. I remember her saying that when she travels all over the world, she’s frequently paying for it out of her own pocket. She’s traveling economy class. And I think knowing that the person managing your money is not overcharging you and not exploiting you in regard to you as a partner is really key. And you can see it from their fee structure. I think that that’s, that’s a really important clue, whether it’s, whether they’re going to get rich, regardless of how well or badly they do

Jean Chatzky: (22:39)
Laura, I want to dive into what being a woman has taught you about investing, and also the struggles that some women have in becoming investors and feeling comfortable with putting our money on the line. But before we do that, let me just remind everybody that HerMoney is proudly sponsored by Fidelity Investments. And it’s no secret that women are on a different financial journey than men. So it is important to plan for those differences. When we think about retirement, social security, investing, and so much more Fidelity can help. They are taking steps to help women demand more from their money because you have worked way too hard to get where you are to keep your money on the sidelines. You can get the skills and the investment advice that you need to put it to work for you and visit fidelity.com/HerMoney to learn more.

Jean Chatzky: (23:31)
We are back with William Green and Laura Geritz. William is the author of the new book, “Richer, Wiser, Happier.” Laura is the CEO and founder of Rondure Global Advisors, a woman owned investment firm. So Laura let’s about women in investing. It’s a topic that we talk about a lot on the show. We talk about the fact that women sometimes lack confidence to own our inner investor, that we tend to keep more of our money in cash. That that really hurts us when it sets ourselves up for retirement. What do you know about changing this paradigm? It’s

Laura Geritz: (24:08)
Such a complicated topic. When I started in the industry on an investment team, I was actually part of the recruiting team to try to get more women onto the research teams. At that time, it was 20th century. It became American century. But what was interesting to me is that every young man who was given a shot on one of the teams took it. What was interesting to me that was that many women actually, who were given a shot, rejected the position once they were on the team, even though they started to figure out the money, the job was interesting, the money, but I guess one of the problems is just, it’s all consuming. It, it becomes all consuming to be successful in the industry. It’s ultra competitive, which I think a lot of women don’t like that they enjoy not, you know, the winning of the stock competition, but working in teams, you know, they want to work in teams and together.

Laura Geritz: (24:59)
And I think one of the things that the industry can do better is to, you know, embrace a team oriented culture. I know one of William’s friends, financial journalist, Jason Sway in the little book of safe money, right? He writes one of my favorite chapters of all time is provocatively titled “Sex.” It’s about gender and investing and it talks about partnering. And I think, you know, the partnership between males and females is really important to, you know, find a male partner who you really get along with and can work with. And that tends to balance, you know, because men have a tendency to be bigger risk takers and women, more risk averse. And so that actually leads to a more diverse portfolio. So I would say teamwork is a really critical part of getting women, more women involved having a tribe.

Jean Chatzky: (25:51)
I think that’s terrific advice. I think first of all, Jason is all of our rabbi, right? I’ve worked with Jason in three different jobs and he’s just so brilliant. And we’re lucky to have him writing every single week in The Wall Street Journal and being able to read his wonderful advice there. But, but I think that you’re right. I mean, and it doesn’t have to be, it could be a financial advisor that partner, it could be a spouse, it could be a friend. It doesn’t have to be a male either. It could just be your girlfriends. It could be other women that you get together with to discuss the right thing. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. William. How about from you? Have you noticed anything in the women who have been able to get themselves over that lack of confidence?

William Green: (26:36)
It’s a really interesting question and I don’t really have anything very valuable to say on this, except that when see my son and my daughter, I actually think my daughter is much more focused on saving money, investing for the future. My son is much more interested in, in spending. Now, there was a point where I said to him, look, let’s set up an index fund IRA for you with Fidelity, and I’ll put in a a hundred bucks and you put in a hundred bucks and just, you know, let me show you the compounding tables and you’ll see how much it’s going to be worth in 50 years or whatever, if you, if you keep putting money away and it just killed him, he was like, why on earth would I save this money for 40, 50 years from now? I want to get a tattoo now, you know, and I think it’s really, really hard to get anyone to think in that longterm way.

William Green: (27:21)
But actually I think my daughter does naturally think that way. So this is a, a sample of two, but I actually think she probably is more responsible and thoughtful about money and very much thinking about how am I going to be independent? How can I set myself up so I can do the creative work I want? Cause she’s, uh, an artist to do the creative work I want without being dependent on a man without being dependent on a job that I don’t like. And so I think that’s one thing that I’ve tried to instill in both of my kids, is that because I’ve been obsessed with investing for 25, 30 years, it’s actually given me a lot of independence to do the type of work that I enjoy without being dependent on other people, to quite the same extent,

Jean Chatzky: (28:02)
Absolutely saving money is never a bad idea. Neither is putting it to work for you. William, I know that various investors that you spoke to for the book lost money as a result of the crashes through the years, what advice do they share for recovering from those painful losses or mistakes and how can we apply that advice in all of our lives?

William Green: (28:26)
Yeah. One of the great investors that I focused on a lot who I’ve interviewed many, many times over the last 20 years is Bill Miller who famously beat the market for 15 years running while he was running this famous fund, like Mason Value Trust. And then during the financial crisis in 2008, 2009, he made this colossal analytical error and basically bet on all of these companies that were getting killed thinking, well, the fed will come in and they’ll pump money in. And these companies will surge and they’ll actually do better than all of these higher quality companies that have held up well. And for once that contrarian behavior turned out to be wrong. And he just had this colossal setback about a hundred people, lost their jobs because of this mistake that he made. And he came from a very poor background. He’d been the son of a taxi driver and was totally self-made.

William Green: (29:14)
And he said, I can handle losing my own money, but seeing my investors, losing their money at a hundred people losing their jobs because I screwed up, he said it was just crushing. And what struck me about what Bill Miller did is he was a philosophy student at college and he drew tremendously on the wisdom of stoic philosophers. People like Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. And as Bill Miller explained to me, the really great lesson from the stoic philosophers is you can’t really external circumstances. You can’t judge how people are going to criticize you and say that you’re stupid in his case. And that you suffered from hubris and overconfidence. He’s like, I can’t control that, but I can control my own behavior. I can control my own attitude, my own mindset, my own peace of mind. I can try to be honest about my mistakes.

William Green: (30:00)
Learn from my mistakes. Try to be a little more humble, try to diversify more because he said, look, I didn’t realize how catastrophically wrong I could be. And so he came out of the crisis with the sense of humility, a sense of openness and humor about admitting his own mistakes. And he crawled his way back in an extraordinary way. And I, I interviewed him a few weeks ago and he was still as contrarian as ever. He had most of his personal fortune in Amazon and Bitcoin. And he said to me, yeah, I become a billionaire again. He had learned to diversify more, at least in his mutual funds, but with his own portfolio, he was still as true to himself as ever. He was taking these very, very contrarian, controversial positions. But I, I think that idea of understanding that there are certain things we can control and other things we can’t and focusing on your own equanimity, that’s something I really admired about the way he handled the financial crisis and recovering from it.

Jean Chatzky: (30:55)
I think that’s a huge life lesson to focus on what you can control. I mean, it’s the way that we build resilience, right? That knowing that there are just forces outside of you on which you have absolutely no impact enables you to take steps that actually do create change for yourself. And for other people, as we wrap this up, Laura, I want to know what you hope readers will take away from your chapter of the book.

Laura Geritz: (31:28)
You asked the question earlier about what we can do, you know, to get more women involved in the industry. And for me, you know, and one of the big recognitions I have when I read William’s book is that I’ve always fit with this group of value investors. They’ve actually been my tribe. So when I read this book about these sort of, you know, eccentric investors, lonely investors, people who take a lot of time to study the Grams, the Buffets, the Howard Marks of the world. What stands out to me is how they are these non-tribal lonely people. And I think, you know, that shows to me, there’s a lot of space in this industry for people who are different and women have been different for years in this industry. So I hope they can look at that and see, wow, these people who are different have been really successful and I can do this too. I can be successful. The other thing I think I took away from the industry was the concept of, and I think all three of us believe this, that wealth, isn’t just monetary richness. There’s a lot more to life than money.

Jean Chatzky: (32:33)
Yeah. William, I love that you went richer, wiser, happier. You could have gone just richer and a lot of people would buy this book. What is it that you most want people to take away?

William Green: (32:47)
In some ways it’s a stealth spiritual book. I’m luring people in by saying, look, you can become richer and I’m helping them to understand that game. But I also want to be really clear that that’s not ultimately the secret of a truly abundant life. And so I’m trying to give clues by eliciting these great ideas from great investors. I’m trying to give clues about what actually makes for a happy and successful life. And one thing I really tried to do was focus on investors, I think are relatively admirable human beings. And a lot of us tend to assume that if you’re very rich and very successful, you have to have really sharp elbows and to have taken advantage of people and exploited people and lied and cheated. And I’m trying to provide a counter example where I’m saying there’s actually a more enlightened way to do capitalism.

William Green: (33:33)
And one of the things that’s striking to me is that pretty much all of the investors, I focus on are very philanthropic, they have some purpose beyond themselves and beyond just piling up as much cash and as as many toys as possible. And I think that’s one of the simple but important secrets of life is it, there has to be some degree of sharing. There has to be some degree of focusing on other people. So I, I hope that people take out of the book a sense of, of, yeah. There’s a different way. There’s a better way. And yes, I want to make money on yes. I want to provide security and stability for my family, but I also want to have a purpose beyond myself. And there are clues when you see people like Charlie, manga treating other people. Well, will you see Laura the way she treats her shareholders? You think? Yeah, actually that’s really nice. And that’s a better way to live. It’s a better way to behave.

Jean Chatzky: (34:20)
William Green, Laura Geritz. The book is “Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life”. Thank you both so much.

William Green: (34:27)
Thank you. Thank you very much.

Jean Chatzky: (34:29)
And we’ll be right back with Kathryn and your Mailbag. And Kathryn Tuggle is with me now. Hey Kathryn. So that was fun for me. That was a little bit of old home week William Green and I worked together at Money Magazine many, many years ago, like two decades ago and the personal finance journalism community. It’s small, you know, it’s really, it’s pretty small. It’s pretty insular. Yes, it has grown. But I love to see the people that I grew up with still doing just such amazing work.

Kathryn Tuggle: (35:12)
Yeah. I love how connected you are in the industry. And I love how many years he put into this book of all of his interviews and all of his insight. I think that this is a great example of what a reporter can do when they have been in the industry for decades, they have all the contacts they know who would be the most interesting people to talk to you for a book like this. And they’re in the best possible position to put it together. I absolutely can’t wait to read it.

Jean Chatzky: (35:40)
Yeah. I also think that his years of perspective resulted in a different book, right? There’ve been many books about the most successful investors do X, Y, and Z. And they follow this formula and they use these tricks and tips and hacks and techniques. And this is not that these are life lessons. I do think that Laura had such an important point when she said, find your people, you know, find the people that you can collaborate with to embolden you as an investor, whether that’s an advisor, whether that is a spouse or partner, whether it’s HerMoney. HerMoney has become this financial community for a lot of women. And we hear from people when we get letters about how they have gained confidence just from listening, which makes me feel so validated in the fact that we continue to do this every week.

Kathryn Tuggle: (36:45)
I totally feel that with HerMoney, I feel it in the private, HerMoney Facebook group, I feel it when we get responses to the newsletter that we send out every week, I love when people just email us back after we send the newsletter out because they know it’s us. You know, I subscribe to a lot of newsletters and I don’t ever feel like I can just email them. And I love that our readers feel like they can email us and be like, oh, I liked this. Or, oh, I don’t agree with that. So it’s amazing. Keep them coming.

Jean Chatzky: (37:13)
Yeah, absolutely. I get a lot of those emails, especially on Tuesdays when This Week In Your Wallet goes out and yeah, I try to email back cause it’s kind of fun. It’s like having a bunch of pen pals. Absolutely. Before we dive into this first question, and while we’re talking about HerMoney, I did want to just tee up the fact that we’ve got another session of FinanceFixx, our coaching class, coming up in mid August. And so if you’ve been waiting for your opportunity to join a FinanceFixx course, these are our small group coaching classes where you get one-on-one coaching, but you also get group work and there’s some self-directed modules as well. You have another opportunity. So if you go to HerMoney, you’ll see that as well.

Kathryn Tuggle: (37:58)
Amazing. Thanks Jean. You ready to take some questions? Absolutely. Our first question comes to us from another Jean. She writes, “I am 60 years old and self-employed, I plan to keep working until at least age 70. My husband is 71 years old and retired. I contribute the maximum to my SEP IRA, my Roth IRA and my husband’s spousal IRA. We own our home and have no debt that the house needs about a hundred thousand dollars in renovations. My husband has 850,000 in his traditional IRA and 16,000 in his Roth. I have 550,000, my SEP and 30,000 in my Roth. There’s no guaranteed retirement income other than his social security. I’m considering a Roth conversion. After hearing the Ed Slott podcast. Since the accounts are with the same firm, I would just move shares between accounts. We have a taxable brokerage account of 250,000 that could be tapped to pay the taxes. Should I convert my account or my husband’s? Should I do a huge conversion and wipe out the taxable account to pay for it or smaller bites every year. Thank you so much,

Jean Chatzky: (39:06)
Jean. Thank you so much for writing. I love it when we get letters from Jeans, because there aren’t that many of us and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been reveling in all the Jean Smart shows this year, “Mare of Easttown” was great and “Hacks” was great. And so if you’re looking for stuff to stream, just go with Jean Smart. Cause she is fantastic. I’m a little focused on that renovation that you need for the house before you spend this money on Roth conversions. I agree with you. I think I would go carefully. I would go slowly. I wouldn’t do a huge conversion and wipe out that taxable account because it seems like that’s your liquid money that you may need in the event of some sort of emergency. And yes, you can certainly do it with a home equity loan or home equity line of credit.

Jean Chatzky: (40:00)
But with that money in the taxable account, you can also just use it and make the adjustments that you need to on your home and go into retirement. Still having absolutely no debt. I know from listening to me that, you know, I love that idea. I think going into retirement without a mortgage is just so much less burdensome. And so you set yourself up for that and I want to see you continue to do it since you’re the one doing it. I would do it in your own account. I would also do it because you’re the younger person. And as listening to Ed, we know that this is more advantageous when your money has additional years to grow, but that’s how I would just proceed. And before you do it, I would sit down with your accountant or your financial advisor and run the numbers on specifically what this is going to cost you and where the break even point is when it comes to taxation.

Kathryn Tuggle: (40:59)
That’s a great point about the break even point. I think a financial planner could definitely weigh in on that.

Jean Chatzky: (41:04)
Yeah, and it shouldn’t be so complicated to just sit down for a couple of hours with either your accountant or your financial advisor and run those numbers.

Kathryn Tuggle: (41:14)
Our next question comes to us from Mary Kay. She writes, “Hello, Kathryn and Jean. Thank you for your podcast. I listened to all the episodes. I enjoy that you cover topics related to all aspects of life. My husband and I are in the empty nest stage with elderly parents. The recent episode, number 247 was helpful about how to talk money with your parents. My parents were receptive and open about their finances. My sister is their financial power of attorney, but my mother-in-law is not as receptive. My husband is her financial power of attorney he’s on her checking account and investment account. He views those accounts online and has alerts set up for large purchases. My mother-in-law has a credit card that my husband does not have access to see. He can see that she writes a check monthly to pay the credit card in the amount of about 1500 to $2,000.

Kathryn Tuggle: (42:05)
My husband thinks she’s paying off the credit card each month, but he’s not sure. She’s a healthy 87 years old over the past few years, we’ve been increasingly concerned about her being susceptible to scams. We hope to continue to promote financial discussions with her. My question is, how do we know when we need to step in related to her finances? Should we wait for a scam to happen or a large questionable purchase? If my mother-in-law is resistant, do we need to go to court to exercise our financial power of attorney? We don’t want there to be animosity and my husband’s siblings are equally concerned. Thank you so much for always promoting healthy financial discussions.

Jean Chatzky: (42:44)
And thank you so much for writing. I can tell that you’ve put a lot of thought into this and I am sorry that this is worrying you as well as your husband and his siblings. I don’t think you are at the point yet where you need to take the drastic step of exercising by force that power of attorney. But I would try to get a handle on whether she is paying that bill. And I can think of a couple of ways, less potentially invasive ways where you may be able to do that. The first is to sit down with her and just say, mom, I feel like to be of the best service to you. I need a 360 degree view of your finances and you’ve already given me a lot of that, but I would love to be able to see what those credit card bills are each month, just to make sure that there are no charges on there that are not belonging to you, just to make sure that you’re not being taken advantage of in any way. And blame COVID.

Jean Chatzky: (43:57)
There are so many scams out there right now. There are so many people who are finding these charges that are unrelated to their own behavior on their accounts. I just want to make sure that you are not one of those people. See if you can get her to, to agree to do that. You may also want to check her credit score. If you think that she is overspending. If you think that she is spending up to her limits, not paying the bill, starting to incur charges, that she’s not paying off, that should show up in a lowering of her credit score. And you can ask about checking her credit score with the very same logic that you want to make sure that she hasn’t been a victim of identity theft, that she hasn’t been a victim of a scam. If you believe that she’s going to push back there.

Jean Chatzky: (44:57)
If she has a financial professional in her life that she trusts, if she has a lawyer, if she has an accountant, if she has a financial adviser, loop that person in to that discussion and see if you can, with their help, start to get the information that you need. You’re absolutely right. That finances are often one of the first places where elderly people show signs of cognitive losses. It’s one of the first places that we start to see cognitive losses show up. But the other way to look at it is to not necessarily look at just the bills and just the paper trail, but to look at what’s showing up at her house to look at, if there are papers astray, if there are bills unopened, if there are boxes and boxes and boxes that are showing up, because she’s doing a lot of online shopping, take those steps. And then if you get nowhere, that’s the time to start looking into how do you exercise that power of attorney by force. And you may in fact need to go to court in order to do that. But I think there are enough work arounds where with some healthy conversation and you may have to do it more than once in order to get where you want to go will enable you to take the steps that you need to take in order to take care of her. Kathryn, what do you think?

Kathryn Tuggle: (46:34)
Yeah, Jean, I think those are great points. I think with matters like this. I always think speaking with an attorney is the first place to start. I’ve been through this with members of my family and just getting the state attorney on the phone and saying what happens in the event of X? What happens in the event of Y it has just provided me with so much reassurance about what I’m headed into. So come up with your list of eventualities is get your attorney on the phone. And I think you’ll get the clarity you’re looking for.

Jean Chatzky: (47:09)
Yeah. And if that same attorney happens to be your mother-in-law’s attorney, that’s great because the fact is your husband is still her child. He may be 60 years old, but he’s still her child. And we tend to react differently when professionals ask for things. And if that attorney could ask for you to have insight into that credit card bill, my belief is that it’ll happen overnight. Thank you for the insight Jean. Sure, absolutely. Thank you, Kathryn. And in today’s Thrive the skills that you learned in your entry level job that need to go on your resume as soon as possible. If you’ve been feeling like your entry level job, won’t help you stand out. When it comes time to landing a real job, we want you to think again, the skills that many employers really want and need these days can be learned while working in food service, lifeguarding, or doing part-time admin or temp work.

Jean Chatzky: (48:10)
The trick is figuring out which of those skills to highlight on your resume and how to showcase them so perspective employers can get a sense of your true talent. Start by communicating your communication skills with the pandemic. Many of us suffered from a lack of opportunities to communicate since our in-person socialization opportunities were limited. But if you have experienced chatting and interacting as professionally on email, as you do in person, it’s time to tout those skills on your resume. Let future employers know you’re a clear communicator who is skilled at speaking professionally with everyone, from clients to supervisors, and that your words are able to inspire confidence and secure the result that you’re after, whether that’s a happy customer or a successfully placed order. Next don’t underestimate the power of a cool head. In our first jobs. Our patience is often put to the test as we may be tasked with difficult customer service experiences. Is being kind and friendly under pressure or putting out fires your specialty.

Jean Chatzky: (49:22)
Well, don’t be afraid to state that in your resume in your cover letter, that you’ve been able to brave the waters of unhappy customers. Even if the job you’re applying for isn’t customer service related, every boss wants to hire someone who knows how to smooth things over and find the kind of resolution where everyone can feel like they got what they wanted. And yes, even paperwork is important work. You might not think much of the months you spent sorting through likely boring paperwork and filing important documents, but don’t take those seemingly basic skills for granted. Every paper you filed required, good organizational skills, and you had to be aces with time management or those tasks easily could have taken you all day. And admin tasks – like scheduling, answering the phones – they can mean that you are comfortable performing high responsibility tasks without hesitation, like leading a business meeting or presenting a pitch.

Jean Chatzky: (50:29)
You got this. I want to thank all of you so much for joining me today on HerMoney. Thanks to William Green and Laura Geritz for teaching us some of the secrets to investing success and tipping us off to how we can all get Richer, Wiser, and Happier in our own ways. If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll subscribe to our show at Apple Podcasts. Leave us a review. We love hearing what you think we’d like to thank our sponsor Fidelity. We record this podcast out of CDM sound studios. Our music is provided by video helper and our show comes to you through Megaphone. Thank you so much for joining us and we’ll talk soon.


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